In a meeting with reporters on Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) pushed back against independent assessments suggesting his party’s proposed budget cuts would cause a spike in unemployment, lighting into Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi.
Zandi, who has advised leaders in both parties on economic policy, released a report today suggesting that House Republicans’ budget plan would lower job forecasts for the next two year by 700,000. Cantor downplayed Zandi’s independent credibility, tying him to Democratic leaders.
“I have seen several reports of Mark Zandi this morning saying that cutting spending would somehow cost hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Cantor said. “I would also note that Mr. Zandi was a chief proponent of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi stimulus bill that we now know has failed to deliver on the promise of making sure unemployment did not rise above 8 percent.”
Cantor added that “it’s important to ask the question and to differentiate what kind of jobs is he talking about.”
“Is he talking about government jobs,” Cantor asked. “And if so, why is the government hiring people it cant afford to pay?”
Zandi’s report did not distinguish between public and private sector jobs lost, but said that real GDP growth would be reduced by .5% this year and .2% next year as a result of the cuts.
Republicans and Democrats appeared poised to approve a bill to fund the government an additional two weeks beyond a March 4 deadline to approve more spending, and Cantor repeatedly stressed that his party did not intend to cause a shutdown. He laughed when asked what he thought of an op-ed by former Speaker Newt Gingrich in the Washington Post last week that hailed the 1995 shutdown as a success and urged Republicans to follow his example today.
“I wasn’t here in ‘95. I’m going to remove myself from being qualified to answer that,” he said. “All I can say is I don’t believe the American people want to see a shutdown.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.